Real Estate as Investment, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Personal Finance
Real Estate

Real Estate as Investment
No Sure Thing. While people in America still make money in real estate, the great boom is over. Many savings and loan institutions and banks who put their capital into real estate have failed. During last few decades of the 20th century, fantastic money was made by ordinary people on ordinary houses and properties: everything from New York City cooperative apartments to Florida beach homes. A home can still be a good investment-- especially if you live in it--but the automatic upward spiral of prices of the past will not be seen for many years, at least in most communities. The 2008 “real estate bubble” saw the end of that particular trend and the onset of a true crisis in home prices and mortgages.

Home ownership is one of the major forms of real estate investment. Often owning can be cheaper than renting, because of tax advantages and because you build up “equity” in the home as you pay off the mortgage. Houses can be difficult to sell, though, if you have to relocate during an unfavorable housing market. In today's market, the purchase of a home should be for living first, with investment considerations a distant second.

Rental Properties. Some people buy investment property which they then rent out to others. The laws applying to landlords and tenants are almost always local, and often complicated. Many laws and regulations allow bad tenants to take advantage of landlords, just as landlords sometimes take advantage of tenants. The landlord-tenant arena is one an investor should enter only with great care.

Co-ops and condo's, either apartments or homes, have the same considerations. If the tax considerations are right and you plan to stay for a long time, you might be better off buying. But owning something you can not sell because of falling markets doesn't really create value, it actually ties up your money. Owning an apartment brings a whole range of responsibilities and is only economical if the cash outflow per month is clearly better than renting. If in doubt, rent.

Commercial real estate possibilities are as varied as the country itself. Consider commercial real estate a high risk category, though, which requires considerable expertise to master.

Real Estate Expertise. Universities, community colleges and adult education centers everywhere offer courses on the complicated field of real estate. Many of these courses are on a non-credit basis and are reasonably priced. If you are interested in investing in real estate, take a basic introductory course first then move on to specialized areas that interest you.

Get Rich Quick? Many “get rich quick” books and cassette tape courses are sold in the real estate field. Many are sold on late night television “info-mercials,” half hour shows that promise you the easy way to riches without investment on a “no money down” basis. Some of these systems can work, some of the time, for some people. It's possible to get rich in America, but rarely quickly. The “get rich quick” information industry in America is a large one, and only a small portion of the people buying GRQ materials ever do anything with them. You'd be much better off spending your $150 or $300 on a good series of real estate courses at a local community college than sending it to the slick TV salespeople.


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